Exploring the Dorset coast

18/04/2019 14:47

Written by Bradt Travel Guides

If watching Broadchurch has you wanting more of Dorset's stunning coastal scenery, rest assured that West Bay and Bridport are just the start of what this county's beautiful coastline has to offer. From fossil-rich cliffs to pristine beaches, this dramatic coastline is a joy to explore, whether on foot, bike or horseback. 

Visit the home of Broadchurch

West Bay Cliffs, Dorset, England, British Isles © Alexandra Richards Above the pebble beach tower golden sandstone cliffs © Alexandra Richards

If West Bay looks familiar it may be because the hugely popular television drama Broadchurch was filmed in and around the town. The seaside town has not been primped and preened to turn it into a glamorous, tourist honeypot; instead it continues as a working fishing harbour with a ‘what you see is what you get’ attitude and where unpretentious fish and chip kiosks are the lunch venue of choice. Above the pebble beach tower golden sandstone cliffs, and the pier looks out along the coastline from the Isle of Portland to Brixham in Devon. 

Go fossil hunting in Lyme Regis 

Fossil hunting Lyme Regis Jurassic Coast Dorset England mattxfoto, ShutterstockThe beaches around Lyme Regis are rich with fossils © mattxfoto, Shutterstock

The Jurassic blue-grey cliffs on either side of Lyme Regis offer up some valuable clues about life on earth in geological ages past, making the beaches excellent for fossil hunting. The Jurassic fossils within the cliffs are derived from sea creatures that lived when dinosaurs roamed the land. Landslides and waves cause fossils to fall from the cliffs on to the beaches below, making them prime fossil-hunting territory. Heading out with an expert will help you to get the most from your fossil-hunting expedition and give you a greater understanding of how they are formed. 

Explore Durdle Door

Durdle Door Lulworth Cove Dorset England by Gail Johnson, ShutterstockDurdle Door is a Dorset icon © Gail Johnson, Shutterstock

The Lulworth Estate covers some 20 square miles and includes Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, two of the most spectacular and best-known features of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. Lulworth Cove is scallop-shell shape (almost a full circle) sculpted by the sea, which broke through a fault in the limestone beds at the mouth of the cove and ate away at the soft clay inland. Durdle Door, an impressive limestone arch eroded by waves, lies half a mile to the west. The sea washes back and forth through the arch, making a washboard of the rocks below. The area around Lulworth offers excellent mountain biking, walking and watersports, and adventurous visitors can be seen swimming or kayaking through the arch, but it is a risky pastime.

Walk the South West Coast Path 

South West Coast Path Burton Bradstock Dorset England by Alexandra RichardsThe Dorset section of the South West Coast Path offers some of the most spectacular seaside scenery © Alexandra Richards

The standout piece in Dorset’s repertoire of walks is the hugely popular South West Coast Path, which combines heritage, flora, fauna, geology and spectacular coastal scenery. The UK’s longest national trail, it runs for 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset’s east, tracing the coastlines of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset on the way. The Dorset section offers some of the most spectacular seaside scenery and the path provides access to the entire length of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, which runs from east Devon to Old Harry Rocks, off Studland. It passes through Lyme Regis and Charmouth, popular for fossil hunting. Between Charmouth and Seatown is Golden Cap, the highest point on England’s south coast; it is a steep walk up from Seatown but the reward is expansive views along the coast, and on a clear day you can see as far as Dartmoor National Park. 

Jet off to glamorous Sandbanks 

Sandbanks, Poole, Dorset, England, British Isles © Alexandra RichardsSandbanks ranks among the finest beaches on the south coast © Alexandra Richards

Poole’s best-known beach, Sandbanks is a sandy peninsula stretching across the harbour mouth and connected to Studland on the Purbeck side of the harbour by a chain ferry. The town is well known for its luxurious, ultra-modern homes and is reputed to be the most expensive coastal location in the UK. Though it may exude an air of exclusivity, it gets packed in summer. The beach ranks among the finest on the south coast; the water is clean and shallow for around 200 yards offshore. In July the beach plays host to the British Beach Polo Championships, which draws top national and international teams, and is coupled with music events in the evening.

Discover Studland on horseback 

Horseriding Studland Dorset England UK by Alexandra RichardsHorseriding is a popular jaunt in Studland © Alexandra Richards

If your bucket list includes ‘ride along a deserted beach’, you need to visit Studland. This National Trust-owned beach is popular with riders, who saddle up fresh horses and set off for the sand. Trotting along the deserted sand as the setting sun casts a golden glow on Old Harry Rocks is quite the experience; for more details, contact Studland Trekking Centre. 

Want to find out more about what Dorset has to offer? Check out our guide:

Dorset Slow Travel

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